Two Keystone ski patrollers kickstart Beer Dart business idea
Summit County locals Jonathan Cernanec and Ryan Kryak found a way to turn a college drinking game funded by two stimulus checks into a business with over 1,000 products sold.
Cernanec and Kryak, now official entrepreneurs, call their garage their “warehouse,” their living room their “assembly room,” and their home in Dillon Valley their “office.”
On a typical day, the two can be found sitting amongst two 3D printers in their “assembly room” putting together each and every set of their game by hand while Avatar the Last Airbender plays on the TV.
Cernanec and Kryak came up with the idea for their company, Beer Darts, in April of 2020.
Cernanec graduated from the University of Notre Dame and worked as a mechanical engineer in Detroit until 2017 when he moved to Summit County to be a ski patroller. Likewise, Kryak attended the University of Georgia until he became “a pre-med student who defected to ski patrolling,” and came to Summit County in the winter of 2014.
By the spring of 2020, both were working at the Keystone Ski Resort as ski patrollers. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the ski lifts came to a halt, both were out of work and looking for the next thing.
Kryak said once they received their stimulus check, they wanted to do something productive with the money. And, he added, they were pretty bored.
So when Kryak brought up a game he used to play in his college days involving beer and darts, Cernanec was all for it.
Cernanec and Kryak’s invention was the set of plastic holders that players put their beer in, and their business idea was to include darts to make it a full Beer Dart game set.
Here’s how it works: Each player takes a holder and their beer and walks 10 feet apart. Then, they put the beer at their feet, and each goes back and forth trying to hit the opposite player’s beer can with the darts.
If a dart makes a hole in the can, the player drinks down to where the hole was made. If the dart makes it into the top of the can, the player has to chug their beer. Whoever makes the other person finish their beer first wins.
But of course, there’s the question, what if you hit the other person with a dart? Cernanec said since he and Kryak are both into extreme sports like climbing and white water rafting, they wanted to make a game that was portable and small and — he added — one with a little bit of risk.
However, Cernanec said, because they wanted to make the game accessible to everyone, they added a clip to the back of the beer holder. That way a piece of a pizza box or even the box from players’ beer can be clipped in as an added layer of protection.
“It becomes a backboard to protect your little toesies and keep the darts from going all over the place,” Cernanec said.
The darts Cernanec and Kryak use are also a bit less dangerous than regular darts. After some trial and error, Kryak said in college he found that traditional carnival darts (weighing about 10 grams each) were the perfect solution, as bar darts (about 25 grams each) were far too damaging to the cans. And, the carnival darts are a bit less harmful if it ends up hitting your leg.
“We’ve been trusting children to throw these at balloons with a carney standing behind the thing,” Cernanec joked and laughed. He added that if a child can probably be trusted with them, so could an adult that’s had a beer or two.
Though their official product is only a few months old, Kryak and Cernanec said they’ve had people track them down after playing with their original prototype from years ago.
Initially, Kryak and Cernanec made the beer holder sets out of wood in their garage. But as they did more and more testing, they began to try out designs on one of the 3D printers in their living room. As time went on they perfected their product, and they made a Kickstarter campaign in December of 2021 to crowdsource the sets they sell now.
An original red and blue set, which Cernanec described as the “classic rock ’em sock ’em red team vs. blue team,” is $45, while the glow-in-the-dark set is $65. For $10, Kryak came up with a play-on-words, “pack of darts,” which includes four darts in a package that resembles a cigarette box.
While the two are still seasonal ski patrollers that just aimed to make Beer Darts a side hustle to pay rent, they have now sold to almost all 50 states and Canada. Cernanec added that a few weeks ago they even sold to a customer in Denver that was on his way back home to Germany.
“This summer I’m full-time beer darts,” Kryak said. “Which is kind of an entrepreneurial dream. To be self-employed and self-sustaining and pay the bills with something you’ve created and brought to the world.”
Cernanec and Kryak will be hosting a Beer Darts tournament in collaboration with Steep Brewing Company on July 9, starting at 6 p.m. More information is available at BeerDarts.co.